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electronic chart, nothing was right with the world. Contrary to evidence, we were approximately 150 feet inland on Mother Earth with no water nearby.
A more daunting experience occurred several years earlier (we have done a 1,400-mile round-trip into northern British Columbia from Campbell River each year starting in 2003). We made our first trip through Gunboat Passage in roughly 2004. Gunboat is the shortest route from Bella Bella to Fischer Channel and parts north. There are a few narrow passages in Gunboat. We were proceeding east, and according to the electronic chart we were just to the south of a red channel marker, which was, therefore, on our port side. Fortunately, visibility was excellent, the paper chart we were also using showed that we needed to keep the buoy to starboard, and it was in fact on our starboard side—just look outside. According to the electronic chart, we were aground.
Which brings me to my favorite navigation story, but it does not involve electronic charts—they did not exist yet, nor did GPS for pleasure boats. We had just acquired a 48-foot Hatteras in partnership with another couple. After a very rough transit of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and a restful night we went exploring in the boat the next day near Henry Island (adjacent to San Juan Island).
My wife and I knew those waters extremely well, having owned a cabin on Henry Island and having been there in smaller boats for many years. We were heading through Mosquito Pass from Open Bay using the ship channel, which is around 40 feet deep. Problem was the sounder on the flybridge was not working. So I asked my partner, Paul, to go below to the pilothouse and give me accurate depth information.
He soon reported, “15.” That’s odd, I thought, since we were in the middle of the channel. I slowed down and he reported “10.” I slowed down again. “7,” slowed futher. “2.” I stopped, went into neutral, and ran back and forth on the bridge looking for the rocks we must have just hit. “Zero,” he yelled out.
It developed, of course, that my boat partner had been reading information off the speedometer and so, the slower I went, the shallower it became.